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Coming up Friday, the last scheduled episode of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, maybe the last episode ever, except for an unaired episode that is expected to be included on the DVDs—unless FOX programming suits are struck by lightning and renew the series (as of May 4, it was “not cancelled,” according to co-exec-producer Eliza Dushku, via Twitter). But if this is the end, where will we look for strong female leads in the “vaste wasteland”? Bones? Seems as if there used to be more—and I’m not the only one to notice that the lack of self-motivated, powerful young women characters is especially glaring in “teen” dramas:

Of course teen drama has never been the most progressive of mediums, but just a few years ago shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars were being praised for their bold portrayal of female characters. In both cases the leads were strong independent women, who knew their own minds and dispatched their adversaries with either superhuman strength or sassy wit. This in itself was not a breakthrough but the fact that the slayer and super sleuth could do so without losing their feminine charms, meant that they became role models for a generation of young women.

Fast forward a few years and the small screen has become a cathedral to credit cards, shopping and the type of emotional vacuousness that makes Paris Hilton look like Germaine Greer.

Specifially, “realistic” teen soaps like Gossip Girl and the re-invented 90210 are all about status and fashion, even as they attempt to deal with some of the same emotional traumas. What does it say when the active, intelligent, witty women are to be found, if anywhere, in endangered or recently ended science fiction series like Battlestar Galactica (which gave us a range of fascinating characters of all types) or Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles? Failure of imagination?

I often read people asking for a Buffy movie…I don’t want that, because I think the series ended perfectly and even the comic-book continuations are a bit of a let-down. But I would like to see some series with Buffy‘s level of “emotional resonance” return to the small screen, headed up by a heroine as smart, strong, and conflicted as Buffy. The occasional rocket-launcher wouldn’t go amiss, either.

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